Malmaison

By Augustus J. C. Hare

[23]

The station is opposite a short avenue, at the end of which on the right, is the principal entrance to Malmaison. A little higher up the road at the right is a gate leading to the park and gardens, freely open to the public, and being sold (1887) in lots by the Stat. There is a melancholy charm in the old house of many recollections--grim, empty, and desolate; approached on this side by a bridge over the dry moat. A short distance off, rather to the left, as you look from the house, is a very pretty little temple--the Temple of Love--with a front of columns of red Givet marble brought from the chateau of Richelieu, and a clear stream bursting from the rocks beneath it.

Malmaison is supposed to derive its name from having been inhabited in the XI century by the Norman brigand Odon, and afterward by evil spirits, exorcised by the monks of St. Denis. Josephine bought the villa with its gardens, which had been much praised by Delille, from M. Lecouteulx de Canteleu for 160,000 francs…. Josephine retired to Malmaison at the time of her divorce, and seldom left it afterward…. In 1814, the unhappy Josephine, whose heart was always with Napoleon, was forced to receive a visit from the allied sovereigns at Malmaison, and died of a chill which she caught in doing the honors of her grounds to the Emperor Alexander on May 26, by a water excursion on the pool of Cucufa. After his return from Elba, Napoleon revisited the place….

After the loss of the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon once more retired to Malmaison, then the property of the children of Josephine, Eugene and Hortense. There he passed June 25, 1815, a day of terrible agitation. That evening at five o'clock he put on a brown suit of civilian clothes, tenderly embraced Queen Hortense and the other persons present, gave a long lingering look at the house and gardens connected with his happiest hours, and left them for ever.

After the second Restoration Prince Eugene sold Malmaison, removing its gallery of pictures to Munich. There is now nothing remarkable in the desolate rooms, tho the Salle des Marechaux, the bedroom of Josephine, and the grand salon, with a chimney-piece given by the Pope are pointed out. In later years the house was for some time inhabited by Queen Christina of Spain. It will be a source of European regret if at least the building connected with so many historic souvenirs, and the immediate grounds are not preserved.



[23] From "Days Near Paris."